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Congress: Reid's defeat

A "$247 billion bill, which would have imposed a 10-year freeze on cuts in Medicare payments to doctors, was an important part of Reid's plan for passing the broader healthcare reform bill later this year," The Hill reports. "But Reid couldn't secure enough votes to bring the bill up for debate, with the procedural vote failing 47-53. The setback immediately raised questions among fellow Democrats over Reid's handling of healthcare reform strategy and gave Republicans an opening." 
 
Negotiations on the health bills were taking place behind closed doors in the Senate last night. The public option was discussed, but no decisions were made. When asked how negotiations were going and what they were doing, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus said, "Basically, how to put Humpty-Dumpty together here." A leadership aide tells Roll Call "the final Senate health care bill would not be ready for floor consideration next week." 
 
Meanwhile, "House Democrats hope to nail down support for the public option this week, negotiate the remaining details next week and put the bill on the floor as early as the first week in November," Roll Call reports. 
 
Roll Call profiles Tom Harkin, who has filled the HELP chairmanship vacated by the late Ted Kennedy. 
 
"Today, after serving nearly 47 years in the Senate, Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) becomes the third-longest-serving Senator in U.S. history, passing Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who died in August… In addition to this milestone, Inouye, 85, a former House Member, will also be the fifth-longest-serving Member of Congress in history, passing Rep. Carl Vinson (D-Ga.), who served from 1914 to 1965 and chaired the Armed Services Committee." 
 
Memphis-area Rep. Steve Cohen apparently recently broke into song (singing the Box Tops' The Letter) at a hearing on high-speed rail. The crowd laughed, but Committee Chairman and fellow Democrat Jim Oberstar wasn't in as cheerful a mood.  "When [Cohen] was finished, subcommittee Chairwoman Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) challenged Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) to 'top that.' ... Cohen echoed the challenge to his chairman… 'I don't compose music or lyrics,' he countered. 'We compose legislation.'" (Cohen also attended a Congressional blues concert last night.)